Firefighters with Clayton Fire Rescue put out a car fire as part of a demonstration at Fox Valley Technical College’s second annual Public Safety Day. (Aug. 19, 2017)
Jen Zettel/USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin
GREENVILLE – It’s not often children get to use a professional grade fire hose, but that’s exactly what they found Saturday at the end of the obstacle course at Fox Valley Technical College’s second annual Public Safety Day.
With the help of firefighter and law enforcement recruits, youngsters held the hose as water shot toward a mini house with a flame icon on top. When the stream hit the faux-flame, it flipped down, signaling to the children they had successfully fought their first fire.
The exercise was one of many for children to try at the open house, which showcases Fox Valley Tech’s $35 million Public Safety Training Center. The free event also featured a variety of demonstrations from area law enforcement, fire and rescue personnel. The community watched everything from police dog and SWAT team demos to water rescues, an automobile extraction and Flight For Life and ThedaStar helicopter landings. People also toured the facility.
“When you look at public safety — police, fire and emergency medical services — that is a cornerstone of the community,” said Jeremy Hansen, associate dean of public safety. “We’re there in your worst time. I think showing what cool things we can do is a benefit to the community — that we aren’t as scary as everybody, and sometimes the media, makes us sound.”
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Thanks to a successful $66.5 million referendum, the college was able to build three new facilities on the site and expand two others. The complex, which opened in 2015, includes a simulated village, a Boeing 727 aircraft, train cars and a six-story burn tower.
After the success of last year’s events, officials evaluated the demonstrations to see what, if anything, needed to be changed. Some were tweaked, while others were replaced. Hansen said something like a dive rescue sounds really interesting, but from the crowd’s perspective, they see the divers go into the water and that’s it.
Instead of a dive rescue, they modified the demonstration to focus on boater safety.
They also added demonstrations from the Valley Mounted Volunteers, a group that conducts search and rescue efforts on horseback, as well as seat belt simulations from the Wisconsin State Patrol and a hazardous material drill by the Oshkosh Fire Department.
The Public Safety Training Center is one of the top facilities in the nation, Hansen said. While the college gets requests almost weekly for tours, Public Safety Day offers the public a firsthand chance to see professionals in action.
Children watch as firefighters Nick Seelow and Lisa Mathison, with Clayton Fire and Rescue, demonstrate how to put out a car fire during Fox Valley Technical College’s Public Safety Day Saturday in Greenville. (Photo: Danny Damiani/USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin)
That’s one of the reasons why Kate and Ben Alberts, of Fox Crossing, attended with their children for the second straight year.
The family lives nearby and drives past the facility often. They watched construction progress after the referendum, and Kate said she appreciated seeing everything up close.
The children loved checking out the demonstrations and activities, especially the obstacle course.
“It’s interesting to see where our community police officers and firefighters train,” Kate said.
Area public safety professionals appreciate the chance to share more about what they do with the community, said Jason Weber, community liaison officer for the Fox Crossing Police Department.
With law enforcement, specifically, Weber said whenever community members call them, it’s typically not a good situation — a car crash, a burglary or a traffic stop, for example. Public Safety Day gives them the chance to have a positive conversation with people and answer any questions they have about the job or their equipment.
“When we’re out there, we’re working. It’s an emergency or we’re handling something, and you just don’t have that time to talk to people. An event like this, that’s what the focus is — you can talk, and you can build those relationships,” he said.
Pa Zong and Cory Dugolenski, of Neenah, brought their son, niece and nephew to the event for the first time. The children were excited to check out the fire trucks, helicopters and police vehicles.
“It’s pretty cool,” Pa Zong said. “I didn’t realize how big it is.”
They also walked through many of the displays, which included fire safety houses where children learn how to get out of their homes safely and quickly if there is a fire.
Cory said he appreciated that the event has an educational component.
“They’re actually giving information. It’s not just ‘Come look at these trucks,'” he said.
The second annual event drew between 3,000 and 3,300 people, said Chris Jossart, FVTC manager of media relations, eclipsing last year’s attendance of about 3,000.
As he watched people walk through the grounds on Saturday, Hansen said he hopes Public Safety Day becomes a tradition for Fox Cities families.
“This is an amazing event. It’s been so well-received by the community and … I’m very optimistic that it’s going to be an event that becomes something the community can look forward to,” he said.
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